The Green Mile

The Green Mile

by

Stephen King

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The Green Mile: Part 3: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day, Wharton pees on Harry’s pants from inside his cell and is sent to the restraint room as punishment. When Brutal walks in, making Wharton think he is going to attack him, he suddenly moves to the side. The other guards, who had been hiding behind Brutal, attack Wharton with a powerful firehose. Surprised, Wharton tries to avoid the water, but Brutal hits him in the forehead with his baton and Wharton is left unconscious by the powerful water flow. The men are then able to fit his semi-conscious body into the straitjacket.
While Paul always adopts a respectful approach to his prisoners, he also holds them accountable for their actions. The violent reaction Wharton had expected from Brutal fails to materialize, making Wharton realize that his guards are not as gratuitously violent as him. At the same time, the guards’ preparation for Wharton’s resistance takes the inmate by surprise, demonstrating that cunning can be found in good and bad people alike—and that cruelty does not always win.
Themes
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
As the men push Wharton toward the restraint room, Paul gives him a brief speech, saying that the guards will treat him well if he treats them well. Otherwise, they will give him the same difficult treatment he is giving them. As Wharton approaches the restraint room, he pleads desperately that he will be good and begins to suffer from a shaking fit. The men nevertheless throw him into the restraint room, giving him twenty-four hours to calm down. While the other guards think Wharton might actually be suffering from a real physical problem, Brutal reassures them, saying he will be fine. When the door opens after twenty-four hours, Brutal is proven right, as Wharton then seems calm and subdued.
Just as the guards had initially underestimated Wharton’s cruelty, Wharton proves guilty of having underestimated the guards’ rigid principles regarding inmate misbehavior. Paul reminds the inmate that he adopts a pragmatic and respectful attitude toward inmates, treating them as adults fully responsible for their actions. Wharton’s attempts to manipulate the guards demonstrate his inability to accept that it is fair for him to be punished for the evil deeds he performs.
Themes
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
Nevertheless, the next day, Wharton buys a Moon Pie from Toot-Toot and, at night, when Brutal walks the Mile to check on the prisoners, Wharton spits a long stream of liquid Moon Pie into his face. Wharton laughs heartily on his bunk but is once again sent to the restraint room, this time for two days.
Wharton’s desire to harm others proves irrepressible, as even the threat of solitary confinement in the restraint room is unable to make him change his behavior.
Themes
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
Every time such episodes happen, Wharton promises to be good but later ends up playing some new, evil trick on the guards. Paul, who is used to prisoners playing such tricks, is amazed at Wharton’s incredible persistence. He worries for the man’s potential to create real trouble during a guard’s moment of carelessness, and hopes Wharton will not stay long on the Mile. However, in the meantime, Wharton’s lawyer is busy convincing people that the young man should be kept from capital punishment. Paul believes the lawyer’s potential for success lies in the fact that the prisoner is both young and white.
Given Wharton’s stubbornly harmful attitude, it remains doubtful whether he actually ever feels remorse for what he has done. The fact that Wharton’s lawyer could potentially succeed in making his client escape capital punishment seems unjust in light of Wharton’s remorseless attitude. It confirms the fact that the legal system is heavily influenced by discrimination between whites and blacks, unjustly advantaging white criminals.
Themes
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
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